Recent conversations with colleagues have led me to uncover and share a focus on connections: in this case, connections between my passions for both scuba diving and for the work I do to serve business clients.

In this brief booklet, I will highlight some HR issues to watch as the New Year 2020 approaches and begins. To fit them together, lighten the tone, and for good fun, I’ll use some scuba diving analogies.

Download the brief booklet by clicking the link below.

Diving Into 2020

I might have first heard that instruction as a part of a television ad. It did not cause me to remember whatever was being advertised. It did capture my attention as a great way to prepare my mind to greet a day.


Think with me.


“Check your lens.” It is short and easy to remember.  As most of us have noticed, a photographer must first set the lens, and the result can then be constant throughout the day.


For example: Initially setting your lens to connect with and care about others and their ideas could take you through a day:

  • Stopping for coffee on the way to work. As a friend has recommended, make the time to actually go into the facility, make eye contact, and greet someone who works there. Check your lens and take the opportunity to speak, to share a smile, to make a connection – even a brief one.
  • Arriving at work. Check your lens and be the first to smile and greet others. Ask questions and listen to others’ replies.
  • Participating in a meeting. Remind yourself that talking more than others likely makes it seem that others’ ideas are less important than yours. Check your lens. Listen. Ask for clarification. Encourage. Help assure everyone’s ideas are heard.
  • Greeting your family at home. Once again, check you lens. Be the first to extend a genuine warm greeting. Listen. Your connecting (i.e., caring) lens will help you hear not only a report of activities but also the sense of achievement, the frustrations or the curiosities behind those activities. Those underlying emotions will provide fruit for caring conversation.


It seems a marketer’s shame that I don’t remember the product behind this reminder. Nonetheless, I am grateful for its value in framing a day.


How might you set your lens and check it throughout a day to make the most of your time?

On March 14, 2016, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received final changes for proposed revisions to the federal wage & hour law from the Department of Labor (DOL).


One former DOL wage & hour administrator believes the rule will move quickly and may be published as early as July 7.  That date would make new regulations effective on Labor Day, September 5 (60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register).  An alternative view anticipates publication just before Labor Day with an effective date just prior to Election Day.


Regardless, it is as important as ever – and now is a good time – to review your compensation practices to plan for likely changes that may be required by these updates.


(More information in the October 22, 2015, post on this site.)

One cannot hide far enough below any radar at this time to avoid hearing negative, ugly language.  In some circles such language has been identified as candor.  One asks: Really?


Candor stems from candere meaning ‘to glow.’  Think for a moment not about the glare of a classic interrogation light but about a sunny, warm glow.  Could that be the basis for candor (i.e., sincerity, straightforwardness, truth)?


In workplace encounters managers’ employee relations goals are at best forward focused.  To build the team and the organization, managers’ candor with their employees builds rather than damages.  So, the ideal may be to base candid conversations in a warm glow of kindness for the best results.




Recently two leaders raised concerns about an employee’s repeated unacceptable conduct.  Frustration led one manager to focus on immediate discharge.  The other manager proposed “one last chance.”  Some persuasion led to both managers’ willingness to lead with candor.  The final “writeup” shared with the employee focused on mutual understanding of expectations and accountability.  The candid message was delivered with care: with a glow of respect if you will.


What could have led to a job loss, frustration or anger led instead to behavior change and a sincere apology.  The employee simply had not been aware how her conduct was being perceived, and there had not before been a candid conversation in which everyone was focused on moving positively forward together.


A recent article described a colleague who was willing to talk with an individual identified as a workplace bully: a situation far beyond what is described above.  One colleague was willing to confront the bully candidly with the glow of mutual respect.


In this situation, the bully’s behavior had stemmed from frustration.  He neither asked for his promotion to manager nor was he trained for it.  He’d been very successful and happy in his role as a talented engineer.  He didn’t know how nor want to be a manager.  He was virtually unaware of how his frustrations were leading his conduct and how negatively others were perceiving it.


  • As a manager, have you created a situation in which an employee may be feeling frustrated and may be acting on that frustration?
  • Is there a colleague or friend with whom you might share the glow of candor to strengthen a mutually respectful relationship?

Might considering candor as a glow of kindness help you approach any seemingly difficult conversation?

Remember the last time you heard an idea for the first time – or bought a new car or heard the really unusual name your friends gave their baby?  After that, you kept hearing it or seeing it over and over.

I have been the happy victim of this phenomenon* over the last few weeks.

  • I reviewed some useful business texts and re-discovered a favorite teamwork concept: Somebody, Nobody, Everybody.
    • If Somebody on the team makes a mistake, needs help, etc. – and Nobody steps up – then Everybody loses. Alternatively, if Somebody helps correct that mistake or clean up the mess or share information – then Everybody wins.
  • A colleague shared some ideas about what her organization calls “team service.” Hers is a food service business.  One example made her point:
    • The work standard is that guests are not served their entrée while empty appetizer dishes remain on the table. Team service directs that no matter your title or position, when a guest has finished an appetizer, you step up to remove that plate. You do not look away or pretend you didn’t notice the empty plate.  Team service reflects well on everyone.
  • A friend described a recent positive experience as a hotel guest. While she was complimenting one of the individuals who had served her well, he shared:
    • As an individual contributor, he can fully control two things: service and cleanliness. He understands that his consistent attention to getting those two things right helps his team and the entire hotel.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue to observe more situations that support what these episodes demonstrate: that we each need others on our teams to succeed.  Details will vary but each situation will offer opportunities to learn, build skills and reinforce knowledge.  What a happy phenomenon.

* In case you’re wondering – as I would be wondering – the phenomenon has been named.  The term Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon was invented in 1994.  Then in 2006, the more colloquial “frequency illusion” term was coined.

Of the many reports and research articles I have read over the years, some findings stay with me and form a baseline from which ideas can spring.  I don’t propose here to repeat the research or even to assure that I’ve stated findings precisely.  Nonetheless, there are opportunities to learn.


Apparently, a habit “comes of age” at 21!  I have heard that it takes 21 repetitions to create or change a habit.  It is probably most valuable to achieve the desired change if those repetitions occur over more than a day or two.  I have also read that it takes three positive people – with some considerable energy extended – to outweigh a negativist.  In a room together, one positive and one negative or even two positives and one negative will, in a matter of minutes, talk and think about negative things.  Adding the third positive perspective won’t make the outcome certain or easy; it’s a minimum.  It seems we humans find it quicker and easier to tear down rather than build up.


What might managers take away from these findings?

  • Choose every day to be the positive one: model behaviors that you want your team to exhibit. Being a nice manager does not mean you have reduced standards.
  • Get out of your office and spend time with your team: listen to them, offer encouragement and recognition, remove barriers.
  • Take an appropriate interest in employees’ lives outside of work: connect with them.
  • Be vigilant to notice any actions, words or efforts that can be appreciated and thank people. The “size” of the deed makes little difference.
  • Don’t tolerate negativity: retaining your best employees may depend upon keeping the workplace positive.


These practices and others are not one-time fixes (i.e., a dunking).  They work when they’re connected to an intentional, mutually understood set of expectations about how people will treat each other (including customers, vendors, etc) in your workplace: when they’re sprinkled consistently, visibly and liberally each day.

Our nation’s Declaration of Independence was framed and signed many years ago. A unanimous decision by fifty-six men taking the risk of being punished as traitors made it happen.


What powerful reminder is revealed yet today in that enduring language?


As you may enjoy a periodic reading of this document, pay attention to the closing (my italics):


“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”


A mutual pledge is powerful. Consider how a mutual pledge might raise the impact – and likelihood of change:


From This…. To This….
Heads nod at the close of a meeting in which a supervisor asks employees to work better together to reduce errors and improve customer service. At the close of a meeting, each employee faces colleagues and says, “In the future to avoid data errors and assumptions that may delay customer service, I will talk with you   when I need to clarify information in an order.”


How can you use the power of mutual pledges to change and improve your organization’s culture?

Think about the last time a bad work situation captured your attention: made you wish for ‘something different.’ What did you do?


According to research recently described on several radio programs, many of us likely did nothing. We did nothing different.


Instead, we likely let the many distractions we face every day and the power of inertia (i.e., “lack of movement or activity especially when movement or activity is wanted or needed” –Merriam Webster) keep us in that same bad situation.


It’s called “status quo bias.” Knowing the name of a phenomenon may make it easier for many people to plan and achieve a change that needs to be made.


Now think about that proverbial “elephant eating” technique: one small bite at a time.


In the context of working with your colleagues and team members, what one small thing could you do differently to create a habit out of your better action to overcome status quo bias?


Would engagement be improved if you

  • Focused your calendar and attention 3 times per week to seek out team members in their work spaces to offer encouragement and positive feedback about the progress they’re making on a project?
  • Took the advice of another researcher to “walk aimlessly” – perhaps in the company of a colleague – for 10 minutes one or two days per week to stimulate creativity?



Recently in a thought-provoking article, Daniel Burrus describes techniques for growing from competence to excellence in one’s career (“Mastering the Art of Your Career,” Burrus Blog).

At a key point in the article Burrus affirms, “The nonstandard educational method of developing intuitive insights coupled with creativity involves gleaning the best-kept secrets and most well honed, time honored methods, the knowledge and wisdom of your profession from other professionals.”


Of course, upon re-reading, it makes sense. How then to make it real and accessible?

While peeling fresh peaches the other day, it hit me. Paths to excellence are all around us. For excellence in peach peeling, it was my grandmother who showed me, watched me, coached me and gave me lots of opportunities to practice.

For excellence in working, paths have been friends willing to listen, to be candid, to offer ideas (not answers) and to ask questions that made me think: try new things: keep practicing. The best of these teachers have not been in my field or working in my organization.

As Burrus challenges: “You can learn the science of your job from books, manuals, and classroom lessons … you need to learn the art from the artists of your field if you’re going to become exceptional. … It’s what pushes us to compete with others by bettering ourselves and in doing so, to push our very professions forward.”

  • Who are your excellence coaches?
  • How do you share what you know and learn with colleagues and new employees to help them grow toward excellence?
  • Will you be a path to excellence for others?



“Online life is so delicious because it is socializing with almost no friction.” So remarks David Brooks in a recent op-ed column in The New York Times. Mr. Brooks goes on to discuss differences between the online “cocktail party” environment and the “book club” environment of offline learning: the search for meaning, context, understanding and wisdom.

What thoughts does the above information trigger? Does it lead you to wonder whether a no friction environment is really good for your organization even if it were possible? If you decide that no friction is neither achievable nor a worthwhile objective, what alternatives might have a better impact on business and people?

How about intentional conflict? …neither knock-down negative confrontations nor quiet acquiescence but direct confrontations among respectful and respected colleagues.

To build constructive conflict:

  • Coach and train your team to manage conflicts they encounter.
  • Expect others to work things out.
  • Encourage dissent.
    • Create teams with diverse expertise, approaches and background.
    • Schedule and plan for discussions of tasks, behaviors and issues of concern.
  • Follow up to assure the immediate concern – and the underlying cause – have been addressed.